ABOVE: Texas Legislative Black Caucus current members
Texas Legislative Black Caucus celebrates 50th Anniversary, remembering the eight trailblazing leaders who founded the organization in 1973
John Maynard Keynes once said, “Ideas shape the course of history.”
When thinking about Texas history, the role that the Texas Legislative Black Caucus has played in shaping the course of the political and social landscape in the Lone Star State can’t be ignored.
Founded in 1973 by eight visionary Black State Representatives with bold and courageous ideas, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus has led the way with over five decades of remarkable legislative achievements. Those eight Black leaders were: Rep. Anthony Hall (Houston), Rep. Mickey Leland (Houston), Rep. Senfronia Thompson (Houston), Rep. Craig Washington (Houston), Rep. Sam Hudson (Dallas), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Dallas), Rep. Paul Ragsdale (Dallas), and Rep. G.J. Sutton (San Antonio).
The shared commitment of these Black political heavyweights to uplifting communities across the state of Texas has been the cornerstone of Texas Legislative Black Caucus, as they championed unity and justice for those needing an advocate at the state capitol in Austin, Texas.
The Texas Legislative Black Caucus is an organization that is comprised of all the African American elected lawmakers in the state of Texas, with the primary purpose of bringing those lawmakers together to work as a group to make sure that the needs of our community are met.
As of the 2023 Texas Legislative Session, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus has more than doubled their membership, with 18 State Representatives and two State Senators currently serving in the state legislature.
To honor the historic 50th Anniversary of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and commemorate this milestone, they held several events, with the signature event being the Texas Legislative Black Caucus 50th Anniversary “A Walk Through History” Gala. All events were held December 10-11 at the Hyatt Regency Austin in the city of Austin, where the organization began.
State Representative Ron Reynolds (Missouri City) currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus this session, and he served as host for the two-day event.
The Texas Legislative Black Caucus 50th Anniversary “A Walk Through History” Gala, which featured three of the living founders of the caucus on the program, was extremely uplifting and motivating. Reverend Dr. Freddy Haynes III, who was recently appointed as the successor to Reverend Jesse Jackson as the new CEO & President of the Rainbow Push Coalition, delivered a soul-stirring keynote address that got almost everyone out of their seats on multiple occasions.
“Richard Nixon was able to get elected on a ‘Southern Strategy’ which was based on positive polarization because they made it about race and they took advantage of white fatigue and insecurity,” said Haynes, comparing the organization then to now. “Whites had gotten upset at all Blacks had gained in the decade of the ‘60s and here y’all have the gall to get elected to the State House in Texas. And then you had the anointed audacity to show up every single day handling your business, representing your community, and giving a voice to those of us who did not have a voice. If they did that in a time, in 1973, where they were going uphill against a headwind, then what are you going to do in 2023, with what we’re facing today?”
It was also fitting that three of the living founding members were brought on stage to share their institutional knowledge and historical recollections regarding how and why the Texas Legislative Black Caucus was founded— Rep. Thompson and former Rep. Hall and Rep. Washington.
“These are very difficult times,” said Hall, who spoke about the continued need for the caucus. “In many ways, these times are more difficult than the times we faced. During our era of time, we knew who the opposition was, and notice that I didn’t say enemies. Now, we have people who feel we shouldn’t be full participants in American society, and they will tell you that’s the way the feel. It’s a different kind of challenge for us, but we are prepared.”
The trio also spoke about the disrespect they received as newly elected Black state representatives and how women, as a whole, didn’t receive the respect they deserved.
Let’s take a closer look at these eight political icons to learn more about them and their contributions, not only to the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, but to Texas politics overall.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson
Rep. Thompson is a Texas native, and represents District 141, which includes Northeast Houston and Humble. She has the distinct honor of being the longest-serving woman and African American in Texas history. Rep. Thompson is Dean of the Texas House of Representatives and is currently serving her 50th year in the Texas Legislature. She received her high school diploma from Booker T. Washington High School in Houston. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Texas Southern University; a Master of Education from Prairie View A&M University; a JD degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law and a Master of Law in International Law from the University of Houston. Rep. Thompson currently chairs the Texas House Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety. She is a member of the House Committee on Licensing & Administrative Procedures, the House Committee on Redistricting, and the House Committee on State Affairs.
Rep. Anthony W. Hall, Jr.
Rep. Hall served as a State Representative in the Texas Legislature from 1973 to 1979, on the Houston City Council from 1979 to 1989, Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County from 1990 to 1992, City Attorney from 1998-2004 and Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Houston from 2004-2010. Rep. Hall is a graduate of Jack Yates High School, located in Houston’s Third Ward. He received his B.A. in Economics from Howard University in Washington, DC, and his J.D., cum laude, from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas. He served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1971, attaining the rank of Captain. His military service included tours in Berlin and Vietnam; decorations include the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars.
Congressman Mickey Leland
In 1972, Congressman Leland was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from the 88th District of Houston, Texas. He served in the Texas Legislature until 1978. Congressman Leland was elected in November 1978 to the United States House of Representatives from the 18th Congressional District of Houston, Texas, which included the neighborhood where he grew up. He graduated in 1964 from Phillis Wheatley High School in Houston’s Fifth Ward. He also graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Pharmacy in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. Sadly, while leading a relief mission in 1989, to an isolated refugee camp in Ethiopia, which sheltered thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing the civil conflict in neighboring Sudan, Congressman Leland’s plane crashed into a mountainside in Ethiopia, tragically killing him and everyone aboard.
Congressman Craig A. Washington
Congressman Washington was elected to the Texas State House in 1972, representing the 86th District of Harris County. In November 1982, he was elected to State Senate District 13, becoming only the second Black to serve in the Texas State Senate since Reconstruction. After the tragic death of Congressman Leland, Congressman Washington was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent the 18th Congressional District, where he served from December 9, 1989, to January 3, 1995. He graduated from Fidelity Manor Senior High School in Galena Park in 1958. Congressman Washington attended Prairie View A&M University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biology in 1966. He went on to attend Texas Southern University Law School from 1966 to 1969, graduating number one in his class, with honors.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
Congresswoman Johnson was elected to the Texas House in 1972, becoming the first Black woman ever elected to public office from Dallas. After leaving the Texas House in 1977, where she worked alongside President Jimmy Carter as the regional director for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Congresswoman Johnson returned to politics and was elected as Texas state senator in 1986. She was the first woman and the first African American from the Dallas area to hold this office since Reconstruction. Congresswoman Johnson went on to get elected to the United States House of Representatives, representing Texas’s 30th congressional district from 1993 to 2023.
Representative Sam Hudson
Rep. Hudson served in the Texas House of Representatives for 12 two-year terms from 1973-1997, representing the diverse communities of North Dallas, South Dallas, and Oak Cliff.
Representative Paul Ragsdale
Rep. Ragsdale served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1973 to 1987. He was one of the first Black legislators elected to the Texas House of Representatives since Reconstruction.
Representative G.J. Sutton
Rep. Sutton was the first Black elected state representative from San Antonio. He served from 1972 until his death in 1976.
Congratulations Texas Legislative Black Caucus on 50 years of countless accomplishments, and for reminding us of our past, the fight of today, and the potential of our future.